Reactive Hypoglycemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Reactive Hypoglycemia?

Reactive Hypoglycemia is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar becomes abnormally low a few hours after eating a meal. This generally happens when there is excessive insulin in the blood. Sugar is the primary source of energy for the body. Insulin is responsible for the sugar to enter into the cells of the body.[1,2,3]

Reactive Hypoglycemia has three stages namely idiopathic Reactive Hypoglycemia in which the symptoms occur around 3 hours after having a meal. The second variant is alimentary in which the symptoms begin within a couple of hours after having food. The third variant is late onset Reactive Hypoglycemia in which the symptoms present 4 to 5 hours after eating a meal.[1,2,3]

Primary presenting features of Reactive Hypoglycemia include anxiety, shakiness, and mental confusion. Dietary and lifestyle modifications are the best way to prevent Reactive Hypoglycemia in people who are at risk for it. Reactive Hypoglycemia is seen mainly in people who are pre-diabetic and hence such people should watch out what they eat and drink to prevent going on to become diabetic.[1,2,3]

What Causes Reactive Hypoglycemia?

As of now researchers have not been able to identify any specific reasons for Reactive Hypoglycemia. However they have come up with a few possible causes for increased levels of insulin in the body. These include a known diagnosis of prediabetes as this makes it tough for the pancreas to secrete the accurate amount of insulin.[2,3]

Certain enzyme deficiencies can make it difficult for the stomach to break down food properly which can also be one of the reasons for Reactive Hypoglycemia. People with a history of a surgical procedure involving the stomach also can have Reactive Hypoglycemia as the procedure may cause the food in the stomach to pass into the intestines too quickly.[2,3]

What are the Symptoms of Reactive Hypoglycemia?

The symptoms of Reactive Hypoglycemia surface approximately two to four hours after having a meal. The primary symptoms include shakiness, extreme hunger, lethargy, fatigue, and sweating.[3]

The person also will have weakness along with nausea and vomiting. Mood also gets affected due to Reactive Hypoglycemia with the patient being irritable and having mood swings. Tachycardia is also one of the symptoms of this condition. The patient will complain of frequent bouts of severe headaches and mental confusion.[3]

How is Reactive Hypoglycemia Treated?

In most cases of Reactive Hypoglycemia, just lifestyle and dietary modifications are enough to manage the symptoms. However, if the symptoms are severe then, physicians recommend drinking some juice and eating at least 15 g of carbohydrates. Some studies mention that people with Reactive Hypoglycemia may benefit from taking medications like metformin which are normally given to diabetics. This is especially for those who have a known diagnosis of prediabetes.[3]

Some of the dietary recommendations for people with Reactive Hypoglycemia include:

Eating small and frequent meals throughout the day is beneficial as this will prevent the sugar levels from spiking up.[3]

Intake of foods and beverages containing sugar like desserts and fruit juices should be restricted as these foods can increase the levels of insulin and cause Reactive Hypoglycemia.[3]

Increasing intake of lean proteins like fish and skinless chicken is extremely good for people with Reactive Hypoglycemia. Additionally, avocados and olive oil is also quite healthy along with high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and beans.[3]

Abstaining or moderating intake of alcohol also can prevent symptoms of Reactive Hypoglycemia. Even if drinking people should ensure to eat enough food so that alcohol breaks down quickly.[3]

Some researchers recommend that people who are pre-diabetic and overweight and have Reactive Hypoglycemia should follow a diet meant for people with diabetes to prevent onset of symptoms.[2,3]

These lifestyle choices will not only prevent the person from becoming diabetic but also decrease the symptoms of Reactive Hypoglycemia. These lifestyle choices include regular exercise and coping with stress in healthful manner.[2,3]

In conclusion, Reactive Hypoglycemia is a condition in which a person has low blood sugar levels a few hours after eating a meal. This is believed to be caused by high levels of insulin in the blood. If a person has symptoms of Reactive Hypoglycemia then the first thing to do is to eat something sugary like a candy or chocolate or fruit juice.[1,2,3]

This condition does not require any treatment aside from dietary and lifestyle choice which have been detailed above. Some physicians feel that medication normally given for diabetes like metformin is beneficial for people with Reactive Hypoglycemia.[1,2,3]

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